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79th annual USC Alumni Awards celebrate Trojan Family

Held in downtown L.A.
From left, Scott M. Mory, Lisa Barkett, Sandy Bane and USC president C. L. Max Nikias at the gala dinner (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Spanning generations and transcending cultural and racial differences, the special bond between USC alumni and their alma mater was celebrated at the 79th Annual USC Alumni Awards on April 28.

The bond was exemplified by the evening’s honorees recognized for their achievements and service to the university at the USC Alumni Association’s premier event of the year.

USC Alumni Association (USCAA) Board of Governors president Lisa Barkett ’81 and USCAA CEO Scott M. Mory co-hosted the black-tie dinner, which drew nearly 800 Trojans and friends to the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.

Calling USC alumni “one of the university’s most valuable and visible assets,” Mory thanked the evening’s eight honorees for being “living examples of the limitless potential of each member of the Trojan Family.”

Barkett echoed Mory’s remarks, praising alumni volunteers for “staying engaged, mentoring students and supporting the university’s mission.”

Though Trader Joe’s chairman and CEO Dan Bane ’69 was unable to attend, his wife, Sandy, accepted the Asa V. Call Alumni Achievement Award, the university’s highest alumni honor, on his behalf.

Introduced by USC president C. L. Max Nikias, she spoke movingly of her husband’s gratitude for being recognized with the special award.

She also shared humorous anecdotes about Bane’s days on the USC baseball team, where he spent more time on the bench than on the field. The upside to his time on the pine: It gave Bane an opportunity to learn invaluable leadership skills from legendary USC coach Rod Dedeaux, who she said advised his players to “Seek perfection, play your part for the good of the team and have fun!”

The evening’s other honorees also accepted their awards with heartfelt speeches. Young Alumni Merit Award recipient Brandon Beck ’04, co-founder and CEO of Riot Games, one of the world’s leading online gaming companies, admitted that he applied to USC without a high school degree. As a high school junior, he was accepted through the university’s resident honors program. And Alumni Merit Award recipient Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana PhD ’95, superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District, expressed her gratitude “for the lasting influences USC and the Rossier School of Education has had in [my] life.”

In addition to Beck and Meléndez, two other notable Trojans received Alumni Merit Awards: United States Sen. Dean Heller ’85 (R-Nev.) and William Wang ’86, founder and CEO of VIZIO Inc., the nation’s top seller of high-definition televisions.

Alumni Service Awards, which recognize outstanding volunteer efforts on behalf of the university, were presented to Dick DeBeikes ’78, university trustee and past president of the USCAA Board of Governors; Kelly Purvis ’82, past president of the Association of Trojan Leagues and the Trojan League Associates of San Diego County; and Jeffrey Smulyan ’69, JD ’72, university trustee and a driving force behind bringing Classical KUSC to the Bay Area.

The ceremony concluded with a performance by the USC Trojan Marching Band, joined by the university’s Song Girls and Spirit Leaders under a shower of cardinal and gold confetti — the perfect capstone to this year’s celebration of the Trojan Family.

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